When it comes to modern families, perhaps no one has a more unique family than Amy Anderson. Who else can scribe in their Facebook timeline page that they were left as a baby at a train station in South Korea only to be adopted by a Swedish-American family from the suburbs of Minnesota, complete with three brothers, several of whom were also adopted, and raised as an all-American kid?
As a child, Amy was a gifted musician, ultimately earning a degree in classical music from the esteemed Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. But that was not to be her ultimate calling. Instead, as she puts it, she followed the sage advice of her first grade teacher, Ms. Nickel: "Amy, one day you're going to become a comedian…now go to the principal's office!" After several repeat performances there, as well as a hodgepodge of jobs after college that have supplied her with a deep well of writing material, Amy has come full circle.
Now an established performer, Amy is still keeping students laughing during her full slate of college comedy tours and comedy clubs. And through it all she manages to be a single mother to a 4-year-old daughter, Aubrey. Aubrey just happens to be the actress who plays Lily, as the adopted daughter of gay couple Mitchell and Cam, on the mega TV hit show, "Modern Family." I had the chance to sit down and chat with Amy and talk about what life is like as a single, working mother to a precocious (and youngest SAG award winner ever) 4-year-old actress.
You were left abandoned as a baby on the streets of South Korea. Have you tried to find out about your past?
I do not have much hope for finding out about my biological roots. I was actually provided with a number of resources including being on several TV shows to find out about my past. At the time I was adopted, there were a number of things not in my favor for finding out who my real biological parents are. And while I grew up in a totally loving family, (two of her three brothers are adopted, and her own mother was adopted as a child) it wasn't until I had my own child that I realized what it meant to have a true blood relative. To see someone who looks like me and even acts like me, it's pretty trippy to have that for the first time. Biological families shouldn't take that for granted.
How supportive were your parents with your dreams?
My parents were always very supportive. They raised my brothers and me to have an appreciation for the theater and music. My parents were both amateur musicians. Our family even sang together as a family at church like the frickin' Von Trapp family. We didn't have matching outfits though. We sang while my mom played the piano, we had solos and we sang together -- the whole thing. My parents were very excited to see me perform my routine the first time and invited all their friends to see me. They're very proud of me. A lot of my Asian friends who went into comedy did not have that same experience; their parents were not so supportive and expected them to finish college.
When you look back at your childhood, what is the biggest lesson or gift your parents gave/taught you?
Don't fill up on bread and the wedding is only one day… the marriage is for the rest of your life. They were wrong about that second one. The marriage only lasted two and a half years, but I did learn that weddings are overrated.
What do you do as a mother that you know you learned from your own parents?
I love my parents dearly, but I often try to do the opposite of what I think they would have done. However, they did teach me a lot about compassion and honesty, which I hope I am passing on to my daughter.Was there ever a defining moment that lead to your decision to become an actress and comedian?
I actually have a degree in classical music, and had every intention of going into music education. But after graduating, it wasn't the right path for me. At one point I even considering going into an accelerated medical program to become a doctor like a friend of mine. I was ready to start the process when I told my parents and they went nuts. I think I'm the only Asian kid in America whose parents went nuts when they heard I wanted to become a doctor. But after more consideration, I stepped back to really think about what I wanted to do. I took a few acting classes and went out to a few auditions. It really hit me after graduating that I can do whatever the hell I wanted.
Did you get work right away?
I was lucky, and I had a knack for comedy and acting. I did get work right away and I remember one of my first gigs was at the Comedy Caboose in Minnesota.
Who inspires you today?
Since becoming a mom four years ago, I don't go out as much as before to see standup. But there are so many great comics; I really love the work of Kathleen Madigan, I've loved her for years. I just watched Patton Oswalt on a TV special and was just dying, he was so funny. I love Maria Bamford.
Where do you hope to be in your career in five years?
Well, if I can achieve even half the fame that my daughter has, within the next five years, I'd consider myself pretty darn lucky. I came to L.A. because I really wanted to continue acting in TV and eventually film. Ten years later, comedy is still paying the bills and while I'm really grateful for that and I do love being a comedian, I'd like to get in front of the camera more.
What is the most challenging aspect about being a working-single mother?
The MOST? Really? I only get to pick one aspect. Ha! It really is hard and it's even harder than you think it is. At the end of many days, I just don't know how I made it. It's insane. The balancing act between professional, family and personal will NEVER be mastered and I really don't think you can have it all. Something always has to give, but it varies at different times. And that, I have become accustomed to.
What is your most important advice for a mother of a child-actor?
Only do it if your child truly takes joy in it. Any parent worth their salt should know the difference. Aubrey LOVES being on TV and loves going to the set and on location. She loves being around "show people." They are her people and she is a very, very lucky little girl. But I can't imagine making this effort and sacrifice for her if she didn't sincerely want to do it. You'd have to be off your rocker. Wait a minute… I'M off my rocker.
What is your most important advice for an up-and-coming comedian?
There's a LOT I could say on this topic. I could and should write a book, but the main thing is be ready to work hard and be your own toughest critic. Know if you're any good and if you're not hitting it, please do us all a favor and stop. There are already enough horrible comedians in the world. We don't need any more. I hope that didn't sound too mean!
What are the three things you can't live without?
Just my daughter. The rest is gravy and could all go away tomorrow as far as I'm concerned. Well, maybe my iPhone, but I don't want to sound like one of THOSE people (even though I am).
What is the best thing about being a comedian?
I get paid to make people laugh. What a joke!
Anything else we should know? What's something no one has asked you, but that you want to let us know?
Well, something that really surprises people about me is that I'm a combination granny and bad ass all in one. Like I love to do jigsaw and crossword puzzles and I even like to do cross stitch and I'm really good at baking, I've always wanted to learn how to knit and crochet, but I also like to skydive, I'm a roller coaster fanatic, I've been a motorcycle rider for over 12 years and I did one of the AIDS Rides from St. Paul to Chicago -- 550 miles on a bicycle. I'd like to complete a marathon sometime in 2012-2013.
Life is full for this uniquely modern family. We love this granny-bad ass combination. You can see Amy in person at one of her upcoming performances, check out her website and calendar for more.
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